Nigerian Journal of Medicine

: 2021  |  Volume : 30  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 479--480

The benefits of universal adoption of unique identifiers for researchers

Lawson Ohwofasa Obazenu1, Akaninyene Eseme Ubom2, Tijani Abdul-Rasheed Olalekan3, Y Hassan Fahd4, Temitope Toluse Selowo5, Shehu Salihu Umar6, Oladimeji Adebayo7,  
1 Department of Surgery, Federal Medical Centre, Nguru, Nigeria
2 Department of Obstetrics, Gynaecology, and Perinatology, Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospitals Complex, Ile-Ife, Osun State, Nigeria
3 Department of Epidemiology and Community Health, University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria
4 Department of Surgery, Usmanu Danfodiyo University Teaching Hospital, Sokoto, Nigeria
5 Department of Chemical Pathology, Jos University Teaching Hospital, Lamingo, Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria
6 Department of Radiotherapy and Oncology, Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Zaria, Nigeria
7 Department of Medicine, University College Hospital, Ibadan, Nigeria

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Lawson Ohwofasa Obazenu
Department of Surgery, Federal Medical Centre, Nguru

How to cite this article:
Obazenu LO, Ubom AE, Olalekan TA, Fahd Y H, Selowo TT, Umar SS, Adebayo O. The benefits of universal adoption of unique identifiers for researchers.Niger J Med 2021;30:479-480

How to cite this URL:
Obazenu LO, Ubom AE, Olalekan TA, Fahd Y H, Selowo TT, Umar SS, Adebayo O. The benefits of universal adoption of unique identifiers for researchers. Niger J Med [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 Sep 25 ];30:479-480
Available from:

Full Text

With over 3,000,000 scholarly articles published in more than 42,000 peer-reviewed journals annually, researchers globally face the challenges of identification, discoverability, and evaluation of their works.[1],[2] The traditional identification of researchers by their names has proven insufficient in tackling these challenges owing to the fact that names are not entirely unique.[2] Many researchers bear the same names and use different versions and alternative transliterations of their names at various times during their careers.[3] Even more so, names change with marriage, divorce, and other circumstances.[3] With the ambiguities associated with researchers' names, it has become increasingly difficult for research and academic institutions and organizations, funding agencies and bodies, publishers and researchers themselves, to accurately identify and track the research contributions and impact, scholarly activities, and academic history of individual researchers and authors.[2],[4] Searching researchers by name or using names to match authors with their articles for citation indexing can be daunting, inaccurate, and fraught with errors, particularly as many authors publish in different journals using multiple variants/versions of their names.[4]

Aside from the problem of name ambiguity, researchers are mobile, and over time change affiliations.[3],[5] Some have multiple affiliations and may publish in different journals using different affiliations, as occasions demand. Organizations that authors are affiliated with may also change their names. For instance, the now California State University, East Bay, was formerly California State University, Hayward.[5] In Nigeria, just recently, the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, Benue State, was renamed Joseph Sarwuan Tarka University, Makurdi. More so, many authors publish across multiple disciplines, making it difficult to link them with their publications accurately.[5] These difficulties underscore the need for unique identifiers for researchers, and this need midwifed the creation of author identifiers such as Open Researcher and Contributor ID (ORCID), Scopus Author ID, Researcher ID, International Standard Name Identifier (ISNI), among others.[5]

With unique identifiers, researchers would spend considerably less time managing and linking the lists of their publications to support grant applications, tenures, and promotions.[3],[6] Much less time will also be spent filling out forms online during manuscript submissions and grant applications, as most of the identifying information (including name, affiliation, E-mail address) requested from authors during these processes can easily be retrieved from the databases of author identifiers.[4],[6] A Nature Journal 2016 survey found that researchers, while spending only about 40% of their time on actual research, spent well over one out of every 10 h filling online forms, reporting activities, submitting manuscripts, and applying for grants, owing majorly to information duplication.[6],[7] Following the implementation of author identifiers, every researcher in the United Kingdom now gains 20–30 min in research time, and institutions, 0.2–0.4 full-time equivalents, saving up to ₤18,000-32,000 in costs yearly.[3],[8] In Portugal, researchers gain 100,000 research hours annually, with 15–30 min saved per grant application in Australia, using author identifiers.[3] The individual and institutional cost-benefit of universally implementing unique author identifiers cannot, therefore, be overstated.

Unique identifiers facilitate and automate the linkage of researchers with all their research outputs, so that they (the researchers) can be more accurately identified, and appropriately credited and acknowledged for their works, and publishers can more seamlessly search for, and select reviewers, report conflicts of interest, and process citations.[4] By connecting unique identifiers to peer review activity, reviewers are better acknowledged for their research and scholarly contributions.[9] Author identifiers also assist funding organizations, research institutions, and publishers better track and support research works.[3] Researchers, scholars, authors, and systems more easily connect, collaborate, store, and share research findings, professional information, contributions, and innovations.[6] Research evaluation is facilitated, as evaluators can precisely link research projects with their outcomes, and identify participating researchers and their contributions.[9] Funding organizations can better identify and monitor outputs from their research grants with unique identifiers for their organizations, grants, and researchers.[10] Author identifiers also facilitate deposition and tracking of research works in local institutional, faculty, and discipline-specific repositories and other such databases.[4] More visibility is therefore given to the research impact and scholarly contributions of universities and faculties.[11] And librarians are better able to collect and map the research profiles of the faculty and research staff in their research institutions, as well as track compliance with Open Access agreements.[11]

From the foregoing, such as digital object identifiers (DOIs), international standard serial numbers (ISSNs), and international standard book numbers (ISBNs), for articles, serials, and books, respectively, the need for universal adoption of unique identifiers for researchers cannot be overemphasized. Researchers should register for, obtain unique identifiers, and use the same when submitting manuscripts for publication and peer-reviewed presentations, applying for grants, and in all scholarly communications.[6] Publishers should incorporate author unique identifiers into their research workflows and algorithms.[4] These identifiers should be requested and obtained from corresponding and co-authors at manuscript submission, stored with the manuscript's metadata, deposited with the manuscript in different systems, and displayed in all versions of the manuscript.[4] The same should apply to reviewers and editorial board members before review activities and appointments.[10] Researcher identifiers should be linked across different identifier platforms (ORCID, Scopus Author ID, Researcher ID, ISNI) for automatic information exchange and also interwoven with research databases such as CrossRef, DataCite, and FigShare.[2],[5] Funding organizations should incorporate unique identifiers of researchers into their systems.[10] A typical example of this is seen in Portugal, where the national research evaluation and funding body, Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, has integrated ORCID into the Portuguese Current Research Information System (PTCRISync system).[10]

In conclusion, as in the vision statement of ORCID, the universal adoption of unique identifiers for researchers would create “a world where all who participate in research, scholarship, and innovation are uniquely identified and connected with their affiliations and contributions across disciplines, borders, and time.”[10] This will encourage global interaction and participation in research, thereby making research more exciting, interesting, and collaborative. While striving towards the universal adoption of unique identifiers for researchers, all authors/researchers should adopt a standard format for their names, and consistently use the same, to ease their identification and discoverability.


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